Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Things to think about while Don Orsillo is resting his voice

Fastjoey9: I don’t want to watch sports until the baseball season starts.

That sentence pretty much sums up my feelings right now. The Pats-Colts game has been digested, throw up, re-eaten and thrown up again. I’m done talking about it, I’m done thinking about it. It sucked…a lot but now it’s done.

Let’s just say thanks to Fox for prison break and 24 (and I don’t thank Fox very often) since without those two shows I would have watched the Celtics lose the Spurs for the 18th straight time (they haven’t beaten San Antonio in 10 years). I can’t wait to see Kevin Durant in a C’s uniform next year.

“I don’t want to watch sports until the baseball season starts” that quote keeps circling in my head. Especially since it came from one of the biggest Boston sports fans I’ve ever known. I don’t blame him for saying it, I know a lot of people that feel the same way. It felt just as crappy when the Red Sox have lost as it did the other night, but I think it was a little different because it felt unexpected, after all it was Tom and Bill.

I haven’t turned on ESPN since Sunday. I haven’t even picked up the sports page of the globe, but I did flip on NESN briefly to catch some Celtics highlights (I shut it off before the Patriots Year in Review) and I saw a commercial that reminded me of Joey’s quote.

Don Orsillo sat at a desk with a cup of tea steeping by his side. He picked up a stack of note cards and held them up to the camera.

They read.


Then I saw a montage of Big Papi swings and home plate celebrations, and smiled. It’s almost time for the Red Sox again. The Sox have made a lot of moves this off season but they still have some lingering questions, some that will be answered in the next month leading to Spring Training and others that will take more time to be worked out.

What’s the deal with JD Drew?

It’s been 48 days and counting since the Red Sox and Drew agreed, in principal, to a five year, 70-million dollar contract. At first I was down on this move big time, Drew just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who fits with the Red Sox. He seems like a me first guy that doesn’t play up to his potential and is oft injured.

In thinking about all of that I wonder how much of my opinion has been formed by the bad rap that he has gotten over time, especially since his whole ordeal in Philadelphia

Side note: He sat out the 1997 season after he and agent Scott Boras guaranteed he wouldn’t sign for less than 10 million.

I’m willing to give Drew a chance. However I hope that the Sox are smart about the contract language, which is the supposed reason why it’s taking so long to sign him. If he goes down with an injury the Sox should make sure that they are protected from paying him for not playing. Trot is gone and Wily Mo’s not quite ready yet, but I’m ready to give JD Drew a chance.

What about Dice-K

What will Dice-K bring to the table in 2007, I have no idea. I will probably stay safe and say he’ll go something like 16-9 or 17-10 with an ERA around 3.00. Assuming he’s the number three starter and Beckett and Schilling pitch well then Matsuzaka is a solid third starter. He’s also only 26 and never pitched in the majors, so you can’t expect him to go 23-4 with a 1.78 ERA in his rookie year.

I think he’ll be good and I think he will come out of the gate strong. He’ll struggle with some things but overall I think he’s going to have a good rookie year. The unfortunate thing is that Boston is a fishbowl. If Schilling and Beckett don’t pitch like they are expected to and Dice-K struggles then the fans will be unforgiving. If those three pitch well we’ve got a great top three, probably not better than 2004 (as far as the playoffs go) but certainly a top tier three man rotation.

If Matsuzaka pans out and pitches like people think he can then the Red Sox will be looking good in the pitching department for the future, granted you can NEVER have enough pitching, but Beckett, Dice-K, Papelbon and Lester are all young (under 28) and could make up one of the top rotations in the league.

Who’s the Closer?

While we don’t know who the Red Sox closer is going to be in 2007, I’d love to see Papelbon but I doubt they’ll risk him getting hurt again, there is one thing that is for certain. Closer by committee doesn’t work. The Sox have added a number of bullpen arms but no designated closer. I have confidence Theo will figure things out before spring training starts but if he doesn’t add another arm, who will emerge as the closer?

Right now the front runners are Joel Pineiro and Brendan Donnelley. Doesn’t inspire much confidence but Craig Hansen hasn’t proven he’s ready yet, Mike Timlin is more suited to the set up role and Julian Tavarez wasn’t very good until the games didn’t matter. Right now I’d say Donnelley, with Pineiro being more of a long or middle reliever.

How about some love for the offense?

Obviously a large portion of the offense falls on the shoulders of Manny and Big Papi, those two can definitely give the Sox a chance to win any game on any given day. To make another run at the World Series they will have to get some help from other guys. Guys like Youkilis and Lowell have showed what they can do.

Wily Mo Pena will hopefully give the lineup some extra pop when he is playing, while Julio Lugo should add some speed to the line up which could lead to scoring runs with Papi and Manny hitting behind him.

Lugo and Drew (if they sign him) will be the biggest question marks and people will be expecting them to make an immediate impact. Anything you get from Dustin Pedroia is a bonus as far as I am concerned. The guy who I’m looking for to step up is my boy Coco Crisp. I think Crisp got a bad rap last year because he struggled and Damon did so well in New York.

Crisp got off to a great start and really looked like he was going to be a good replacement for Damon, he’s a different player but he adds speed and some power (Damon’s power numbers are helped by Yankee Stadiums short porch in right). I think he will have the biggest turn around; after all he missed a ton of time with that broken thumb. I see Crisp hitting over .300 with 15-20 homers and a solid number of RBI’s.

He’s not a stellar lead off hitter but with Youkilis and Lugo up top the Red Sox can move him down in the line up which adds speed to the part of the line up that will feature Drew (maybe), Varitek, Lowell and Pedroia. A lot of people will be expecting an immediate impact from the new guys but I think Crisp will have something to prove this year and I think he will do it.

Whatever happens in 2007 it’s sure to be another roller coaster ride, so rest your voice Don. I have a feeling Big Papi and the Sox will have a few more walk off wins for you and Jerry.

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